Wrist Wraps: Everything You Need to Know

man wearing a pair of classic wrist wraps from iron bull strength

We’ve all seen the guys and girls in the weight room, methodically wrapping their wrists. And if you thought that wrist wrapping was only for boxers, you’re not alone.

Next to lifting gloves, wrist wraps are a proven, convenient, and cost-effective piece of exercise equipment. They aren’t just for show or the overly cautious. Wrist wraps have been shown to provide several benefits to weightlifters including wrist support, enhanced performance, and reduced risk of injury.

Are you new to wearing wrist wraps? Considering purchasing your first pair? Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about wrist wraps including their benefits and what to look for when buying wrist wraps online.

Table of Content:

  • What are Wrist Wraps?
  • Types of Wrist Wraps
  • Wrist Wraps vs. Lifting Straps
  • Benefits of Wrist Wraps
  • When to Use Wrist Wraps
  • How-to Put-on Wrist Wraps
  • What to Look for When Buying Wrist Wraps
  • Where Can I Buy Wrist Wraps?
  • FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about Wrist Wraps

What are Wrist Wraps?

Wrist wraps are pieces of fitness equipment used during exercise, usually weightlifting, to provide support and protect your grip, wrist, and forearm.

Weightlifting wrist wraps are especially useful during heavy lifting workouts such as powerlifting or Strongman where pressing movements and overhead lifts are common.

Wrist wraps are also known as wrist straps or wrist pads. Also, as we’ll discuss more below, they are useful in a variety of different workouts outside of heavy lifting.

 muscular man putting on wrist wraps

Types of Wrist Wraps

There are several types of wrist wraps that can help your workouts depending on your fitness goals and exercise program.

Wrist Wraps

The traditional wrist wrap is a durable piece of material with a closing mechanism, usually a Velcro strap. There is also a thumb loop on the side to ensure security.

It should be noted that the thumb loop is not required to use the wrist wraps. In fact, many lifters prefer to leave it hanging on the side or safely remove it from the strap altogether.

Lifting Strap Combo

Just as the name implies, this wrist wraps and lifting straps combo puts together the supportive benefits of wrist wraps with the lifting support of straps.

Unlike wrist wraps, lifting straps are not focused on providing muscle and connective tissue stability. Rather, they take over when your grip fails allowing you to lift more weight to fatigue the target muscle. More on this below.

EZ Grip Combo

The EZ Grip combo mixes the classic wrist wraps with an extended leather pad. They are sometimes called wrist pads.

The wrist straps provide support while the leather pads ensure a tight grip on the barbell.

The leather pad is incredibly durable and built for elite-level workouts such as weekly powerlifting meets. Unlike lifting straps, the leather pad does not take over when your grip fails during movements such as the deadlift. Rather, it provides a tight grip on the barbell, helping you to securely lift it. But once your grip fails, the barbell is inevitably coming down.

Lifting Hook Combo

This wrist wrap combo is similar to the EZ Grip but instead of a leather pad, there is a lifting hook.

The wrist straps themselves are heavy duty, usually reinforced with several layers of a tough neoprene material. The hooks should be steel – and don’t accept anything less – with a plastic coating as not to damage the barbell.

This wrist wrap, lifting hook combination is ideal for powerlifting and Strongman workouts where personal records (PRs) are set on a weekly basis.

However, with that said, it’s important to remember that if your goal is a powerlifting competition, you cannot use lifting straps or lifting hooks during the actual event. But training with these items is still beneficial to ensure you become accustomed to pulling your target weight.

muscular man putting on lifting straps

Wrist Wraps vs. Lifting Straps

There’s an odd trend in the online fitness community where wrist wraps are mistakenly being referred to as lifting straps. These are two completely different things.

While there are some combinations of the two, as we discussed above, wrist wraps and lifting straps serve two different purposes:

Wrist wraps are designed to support your wrist, alleviate tension and soreness, and protect the connective tissue that runs from your hand to your elbow. Wrist wraps can enhance performance during movements such as the bench press but do nothing to prevent grip fatigue.

Lifting straps, on the other hand, are primarily used to prevent grip slippage during maximum effort lifting exercises. They can also take over once your grip has failed, allowing you to complete a few more repetitions to ensure you achieve target muscle fatigue for better results.

Benefits of Wrist Wraps

Before we discuss how to use wrist wraps, it’s important you understand the benefits of wrist wraps and why you should invest in a pair to support your fitness goals.

Form Support

Wraps provide weightlifting wrist support. Take a minute to think about how many exercises your wrist is involved in. If you’re using a free weight, your wrist is going to be a part of the action.

Is it any wonder that wrist strain is one of the most common weightlifting injuries?

A wrap provides additional support to the bones in your wrist during all exercises and helps you keep proper alignment and form during the movement.

For example, during movements like the barbell snatch, your wrist is kept in place and the chance of overextension is minimized with the help of a wrist wrap.

Protection

Continuing with the idea above, wrist flexibility is great for stretching but it can become problematic during weightlifting, especially Olympic-based movements. Flexible wrists decrease stability. As a result, your risk for injury increases.

Since the wrist wrap supports the musculature and connective tissue from your hands to your elbow, there is less of a chance of involuntary movement in the wrist.

In other words, wrist wraps help to protect you from strain or injury due to overextension and overuse.

Alleviation of Prior Issues

Do you occasionally wrestle with soreness or pain in your wrist from a prior injury? Is weightlifting more of a chore than a passion because every type you pick up a weight, your wrist hurts? Wrist wraps can help.

Wrist straps can stabilize your arm during lifts, reducing the soreness or pain that usually bothers you.

And while this is more anecdotal than scientifically based, the blood flow restriction from tight wrapping may support post-workout recovery.

Performance

When it comes to your fitness performance, wrist stability doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Think about it: If you’re attempting a new max effort lift, wrist stability is essential. A secure wrist helps to narrow the focus of your effort and the direction of the concentric movement, thereby improving your performance.

This can be seen in a barbell bench press. If you wrap your wrists during an attempt at your one-repetition max, you’re ensuring that your hand to your elbow is locked and loaded. Your grip will naturally curl into the position for holding a barbell. The only thing you have to worry about is pressing that loaded bar.

Recovery

One underreported benefit of wrist wraps has to do with post-workout recovery.

Since the wrist strap is stabilizing your wrist and elbow, you don’t have to worry about overuse or strain.

Also, as we mentioned above, depending on how tightly you wrap your wrists, you may be indirectly enjoying the benefits of blood flow restriction. BFR has been shown to improve post-workout recovery.

wrist wraps for powerlifting

When to Use Wrist Wraps

In general, we recommend using wrist wraps for heavy-lifting workouts, especially when overhead lifts are involved. Also, you should use wrist straps during any workout where overuse is possible such as during metabolic conditioning (metcon) workouts.

Here are more specific examples of when wrist wraps will come in handy:

Powerlifting

One of the most important accessories of powerlifting equipment is a solid pair of wrist wraps. Although powerlifters only focus on three movements –squat, deadlift, and bench press – each one requires stable and strong wrists.

CrossFit

CrossFit focuses heavily on metcon workouts along with bodyweight exercises that are accompanied by high numbers of repetitions. This makes CrossFit wrist wraps a necessity to prevent overuse injuries.

Strongman

Compared to traditional bodybuilding, Strongman workouts are a bit unorthodox. You’re throwing around more than weights; you’re flipping tires, carrying an Atlas stone, and walking with loaded barbells.

Wrist wraps are a necessity to keep your wrists stable and secure as you perform these exercises.

High-Repetition Weightlifting

If you’re not involved in any of these sports, your current workout program may still present a risk for overuse.

High-repetition workouts can cause repetitive strain on your wrist and elbow, thereby increasing your risk for soreness, strain, or injury. Wrist wraps can help to take the strain off of your wrists during these workouts.

muscular man learning how to put on wrist wraps

How-to Put-on Wrist Wraps

Once you have your first pair of wrist wraps, you might be hesitant to start lifting with them because you’re not sure how to put them on. Here’s a start-to-finish guide on how to put on wrist wraps.

  • Place the wrist wrap on the center of the joint of the wrist.
  • Stretch the wrap tight and hold it in place with your fingers.
  • Holding the wrap, pull it tight directly around your wrist.
  • Imagine your tracing the letter “X” and bring the wrap down across the wrist.
  • Before moving the wrap upward, pull it tight again.
  • Continue this “X” pattern, ensuring the wrap is tight before moving to the next step.
  • Once you have run out of strap slack, secure it with the Velcro attachment.

Note on Wrap Tightness

The extent of the tightness is going to be a personal preference. Some people like the wrap to be tight to the point of discoloration in the skin. And arguably, this should be your goal.

Think of tightness on a scale of 1 to 10. If you’re a beginner to wrist wraps, you can begin with a 6 in tightness, but your goal is to get used to a 9 or 10. This might take several months, but don’t give up on it. You can increase tightness of the wrap in relation to how much weight you’re lifting. The more you lift, the tighter the wrap.

You can vary the tightness to avoid discomfort, but the reality is that you’ll need to adjust to a decently tight wrap. A tight wrap is important for securing the natural grip during lifts. It also helps you squeeze harder.

What to Look for When Buying Wrist Wraps

Before you start shopping for your first pair, here’s what features you should look for in the best wrist wraps.

Length

Most wrist wraps are available in 16”, 24”, 30” lengths. Iron Bull Strength offers a unique 12” wrap for women and an 18” wrap for men. Both are ideal for most workouts.

A longer wrap does not necessarily mean a better wrap. Here’s why:

The longer the wrap, the more support you get. But the drawback is that you’ll have a lot of bulk on your wrist, which might not be ideal for the exercise you’re performing. If a bulky wrap interferes with performance, this is defeating the purpose of the wrap.

If you’re a beginner to wrist wraps, we would recommend starting out with a shorter wrap. You can progress from there, depending on your needs.

Stiffness

Just like the length of a wrist wrap, stiffer wraps do not automatically equate to better wraps. You’ll find a range of wrap flexibility and stiffness, and you should select one based on your workout.

In general, if you’re performing high-repetition workouts such as CrossFit training, then you might want some additional flexibility. For example, it’s good to have wrist stability during exercises like the kipping pull-up but you don’t want a completely stiff wrist as this will interfere with performance.

If your focus is on heavy-lifting workouts such as powerlifting and Strongman, we recommend opting for a stiffer wrap.

Material

Depending on your fitness goals, there are two types of material that you’ll find with wrist wraps:

Cotton Wrist Wraps: This type of wrap tends to be thinner and more flexible. It also lets your wrists breathe or air out more.

Nylon Wrist Wraps: These wraps are usually tougher and supported by cross stitching, multiple layers of nylon, and Velcro.

Feel

Not all brands of wrist wraps are created equal. You might need to try on a few pairs until you find the one that feels the best to you. However, it’s important to remember that all elite-quality wrist wraps require an adjustment period. Some roughness is normal in the beginning but the more you wear them, the faster you’ll adjust.

Activity Type

We touched on this above, but certain types of wrist wraps work better for different activities and workouts. Here’s a list of common workouts and the material that might be ideal for that activity:

  • Powerlifting: Nylon
  • CrossFit: Cotton
  • Bodybuilding: Cotton
  • Strongman: Nylon
  • Weight Loss-Focused: Cotton

Longevity

Usually, the more durable your wrist wraps, the longer they will last. And the longer the wraps last, the better your investment.

This is why you want tough wrist wraps. They shouldn’t fall apart or start to show signs of wear after a few workouts. Take note of the material, stitching, and recommended workout type when buying.

 powerlifter wearing wrist wraps

Where Can I Buy Wrist Wraps?

Wrist wraps are available at most sports and athletic stores. You can also purchase them online. Check out the Iron Bull Strength lineup for different types of wrist wraps for your fitness goals:

Classic Wrist Wraps: This is a revolutionary 18" long by 3” wide wrist wrap that ensures you get all of the wrist support and stability you need while performing heavy lifts.

Women’s Wrist Wraps: The Iron Bull women’s wrist straps are made from high-grade nylon materials and contain heavy-duty stitching. With a strong Velcro strap, you’ll have the perfect support whenever you need it.

Wrist Wraps and Lifting Straps Combo: Featuring heavy duty material for maximum durability and gripping power, the Iron Bull wrist wraps and lifting straps combo can help you reach the next level of your strength.

EZ Grip Combo: Ready for an insane grip? This one piece of equipment can replace grip pads and gloves. This durable leather EZ Grip wrist wrap combo is ideal for the heavy lifter who is constantly setting new PRs and can’t afford to lose grip.

Lifting Hook Combo: The Iron Bull lifting hooks have set the bar for powerlifting equipment. Every pair feature strong double-sided stitching, industrial grade Velcro, and heavy-duty stainless-steel hooks. These wraps are no joke – Only the serious lifters should grab a pair.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about Wrist Wraps

You know the benefits of wrist wraps and you’ve found a pair that you’re excited to try. Now, let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions about wrist wraps.

1. Do I wear my wrist wraps during the entire workout?

Despite the benefits, wrist wraps can be overused. The point of investing in a good pair of wrist wraps is to supplement your performance, not replace your natural strength.

Wear your wrist wraps when you need them. Do not wear them during the entire workout. For example, you should wear the wrist wraps during the working sets, not the warm-up sets.

You should even restrict your usage during certain working sets, allowing yourself to maintain a high level of power and strength without the use of fitness gear.

For example, if you’re performing a powerlifting workout, use wrist straps on your heaviest lifting days or the days you want to set a new PR. Do not use wrist wraps on light workout days.

2. Can I wear wrist wraps if I have prior wrist issues?

Yes, absolutely. In fact, we would highly recommend wearing wraps if this is the case.

Prior wrist injuries or surgeries can cause complications during your workout, especially if you’ll use heavy loads. Wrist wraps can provide necessary stability and support to take the strain off of the joint and connective tissue.

What’s more, wrist wraps can prevent further complications such as tendonitis.

3. Can I wash my wrist wraps with my workout clothes?

We wouldn’t recommend washing your wrist wraps in the washing machine with your clothes. Instead, you should hand wash them in the sink and let them air day.

Modern washing machines tend to be a bit rough and they might decrease the longevity of your wraps.

4. Are wrist wraps okay for a warm-up?

We wouldn’t recommend this. As we discussed above, wrist wraps should be used as a way to supplement your workout, not as a crutch. You want to develop your natural strength and power by only using wrist wraps when it’s necessary.

5. Will Wraps Make My Wrists Weak?

When used as instructed, wrist wraps will not weaken your wrists. In fact, they can promote the natural alignment and stability of the joint.

With that said, if you wear the wrist wraps too much, you can develop a reliance on them, and your natural wrist strength can decrease. You may also increase the risk for wrist and elbow strain.

pulling a wrist wrap tight while putting it on

Protect Yourself, Improve Your Workouts with Wrist Wraps

Are you dedicated to your sport and your workout routine? Want to take the strain off of your wrists while improving performance?

Wrist wraps can dramatically decrease your risk of injury and support your workout goals. Invest in a high-quality pair of wrist wraps today and see the benefits in your next workout.

 

References

  1. Coswig VS, Machado Freitas DF, Gentil P, Fukuda DH, Del Vecchio FB. Kinematics and Kinetics of Multiple Sets Using Lifting Straps During Deadlift Training. J Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(12):3399-3404. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000986.
  2. Coutinho, Marilia. “The Wrist Wrap as a Protective and Performance Enhancing Device in Powerlifting.” Penn State University, 2007, citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.585.5880&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
  3. Valério DF, Berton R, Barbieri JF, Calzavara J, De Moraes AC, Barroso R. The effects of lifting straps in maximum strength, number of repetitions and muscle activation during lat pull-down [published online ahead of print, 2019 Jun 14]. Sports Biomech. 2019;1-8. doi:10.1080/14763141.2019.1610490.